Jennine Khalik at ABC News (Australia):
The young men and women blowing clouds of grape and mint-flavoured smoke at a Middle Eastern shisha cafe in Sydney could pass for any group of friends.
They are a cluster of ordinary professionals and students, passing hookah pipes to each other, as they sip coffee, banter and glance at their smartphones.
The circumstances under which they know each other are bittersweet. They are members of an underground network of former Muslims across Australia, caught between secularism and Islam. Some fear persecution if their loss of faith is discovered, some fear for their lives.
Melbourne local Aisha* is one of more than 70 members of the network spread across the country.
Aisha was cut off from her family three years ago when things took a dark turn after she removed her hijab.
“I never actually told my parents I was an ex-Muslim because I was scared of their reaction,” she said.